Jim Siergey: March Madness

March 23rd, 2019

I don’t know if it’s some perverse form of Spring Fever but lately my body has been doing battle with me.

I don’t understand why because I have been a whole lot nicer to it than I was in my youth. Apparently, it holds a grudge.

It began with a week long headache. It wasn’t a migraine but it was a headache, a nefariously playful one.  Hide and seek was its game. The rascally thing would burst upon the scene and linger for a while, then recede into hiding and emerge once again whenever I thought the coast was clear

Sheridan Whiteside had nothing on this cranial vexation.

After that irritant abated I slogged through a couple of days of intestinal discomfort. My diagnosis was that it stemmed from eating too much bread.

Like everyone else in the world, I like bread but it is not part of my normal diet. Thus, dining on bread is a pleasurable rarity. For St. Patrick’s Day, my wife baked up a loaf of Irish soda bread and I engorged myself on it. It served as both my lunch and my dinner.

manwhocametodinnersheridanMr. Whiteside stayed for dinner…


There’s an old saying “Too much of a good thing”. It’s an adage from which I have yet to learn my lesson.

For a while I thought that, despite not being Swedish, I might have become averse to gluten. I began looking into gluten-free products and food, thinking that I would have to change my dietary lifestyle and become even more picky about what I eat.

Picky because I listen to my body. It, of course, does not verbalize to me but it communicates just the same. It lets me know, with no doubt about it, that I should refrain from consuming certain types of comestibles and, for the most part, I listen.

You’d think it’d be grateful but nooo, one little slip up and it’s bombs away.

After the headaches and the stomachaches, a day finally arrived where I felt fine. I was free at last! Free to walk in the sunshine, breathe the cool, clean air, comingle with the the flora and fauna that nature provides. It, of course, rained all day.

The next morning I awoke full of positive expectations for the day ahead. I opened my rose-colored eyes only to see that the room was spinning. My old nemesis, vertigo, had dropped by for a visit.

I tried to pay it no mind, y’know, walk it off, rub some dirt on it, but when during my morning shower I had to resort to kneeling on the tub floor to finish washing because the small porcelain area appeared to be in orbit, I knew that the Big V had won.

Perhaps it’s the weather that is affecting my body which, in turn, is affecting me.

It is said that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. Okay, March, I’m bleating already. I’m bleating. Get outta here!


Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Shouldlessness

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Jim Siergey: Shouldlessness?

March 17th, 2019

I wonder if life would be different if the word ‘should’ had never been created. I realize that may sound rather silly but words do have power.

In my case I have a list as long as an orangutan’s arm that incorporates that word. I should do this and I should do that or I should do this or that differently or I should stop doing this or that. Then there’s the ever rueful ‘should have’.

Allow me to revise that list length to two orangutan’s arms.

I realize that people who think of me as being an exemplar of perfection are astonished at this admission but, folks, I’m human…just like you. Really, I am. I’ll bet that I have faults and shortcomings that dwarf those of any man jack of you, excluding politicians, of course.

Then again, I am my own harshest critic. Aren’t we all? Does our self criticism stem from…that word?

Is there another word in the English language that can cut one down to size better than ‘should’? It can be quite demeaning…and demanding.

For you etymologists out there, the word ‘should’ is derived from Middle English sholde, from Old English sceolde which meant owed, was obliged to, ought to, a meaning that it still retains.


Spike was right…


If that word had never existed, would we be happier human beings? Would we not be reminded of our shortcomings and our faults? Would we have no regrets? Would we be such perfect beings that there would be no such emotion as regret? Would we, and I apologize to Spike Lee, always do the right thing?

Or would it be the opposite?

I have to say that I think the opposite is true more times than not, especially in these current times, even with the word ‘should’.

I, for one, am going to try to abolish the word from my thinking and vocabulary. I’m just going to do or not do and not worry about whether I should or should not. I believe that I am intelligent enough to know whether it is (again, sorry, Spike) the right thing to do or not. After all, I’m not a monster.

Yes, that is definitely what I’m going to do. At least, I think I should.


Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Confession Time


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Jim Siergey: Confession Time

February 26th, 2019

Okay, I’m dropping my freak flag and admitting my squaredom. I don’t know a thing about Queen or the song “Bohemian Rhapsody”.

I know that a band called Queen existed but have no familiarity with it. I thought it was a band from the ‘90s.

Boy, was I wrong.

I just looked them up on the computer and Wikipedia says the band formed in 1970 (!)… but they didn’t chart (in the UK) until 1974. Whew.

I typed that expression of relief because it explains why they passed me by.

By 1974 I had soured on modern rock music. It had become overblown and boring, for my tastes anyway. My musical listening pleasures turned to jazz, classical and country. Don’t scoff,there was some good country music being played back then.

I had a long commute to and from the job I had and my car radio was my companion. There were two, yes, two classical musical stations and a jazz station and, over on AM there was WJJD which played Willie and Waylon and Dolly and Loretta, to name a few who don’t need their surnames mentioned in order to be recognized.

FreddiemercuryFreddie, the great…


Rock music had taken a seat way in the back. Oh sure, I was cognizant of what was being played on the radio but I barely paid any attention to it. I was re-awakened to rock in the 1980s by the likes of Elvis Costello, The Police and Warren Zevon.

But, Queen? They weren’t on my radar.

In fact, I didn’t believe that I had ever heard the song that the new Oscar-nominated bio-pic was named after, “Bohemian Rhapsody”. So I looked it up today on YouTube.

I was right. I had never heard it except for that Mama Mia part, which I have only heard referenced in various places, TV commercials and such. As for the song itself, it seemed to me that it was at least parts of three different songs thrown together into one.

Sometimes that works. It depends on the listener, of course, and to the ears of this listener it seemed like a mish-mosh.  In fact, I had to force myself to listen all the way to the end. I was hoping something great would happen.

Nothing ever did. I didn’t get it. Maybe I “had to be there”.

Hey, at least give me credit for trying. That Arena Rock stuff never did anything for me then and apparently it still doesn’t. Overblown ain’t my bag, man.

That all said, it’s unlikely that I will give the movie a glance. Heck, I still haven’t seen “Tommy”, the Who rock opera directed by Ken Russell. Talk about overblown.

So, that’s my confession. I’ll pick up my freak flag now and go ho—Hey!  Who spray painted a L7 on my freak flag!??


Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Tick & Tock


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Benny Jay: Living With Jimi

February 17th, 2019

For the last few weeks, I’ve been repeatedly listening to My Cherie Amour.

It’s not the universally known version by the great Stevie Wonder.

No, it’s a cover version by my wife, who generally plays it while sitting at the kitchen table.

As such, my wife, our dog and I are probably the only living beings who know this version exists.

My wife, you see, is learning to play the guitar. At the moment, her practice song of choice is the aforementioned My Cherie Amour.

You know what? Just in case someone out there doesn’t instantly know this song, let me remind you that it goes like this…

“My Cherie Amour, lovely as a summer day/My Cherie Amour, distant at the Milky Way…”

One of the finest pop music lyric ever written!

In the Stevie Wonder version, the chorus features a string of 13 la, la, las.

In my wife’s version, there’s 12 las and then a great pause.

That’s because the progression of la, la, las moves to a chord that requires my wife to make some ridiculously impossible contortions with her fingers.

All in an effort to squeeze the most appropriately precise sound from the guitar for that part of the song.

That chord she’s trying to play is known–in the business–as a bar chord.

Bar chords are to becoming a guitar player a little like what Freshman Intro to Biology is to becoming a doctor.

They’re the gatekeepers that separate people who have a future in the endeavor from everybody else.

IMG_0194My Cherie Amour…

The point is that those with bendable fingers may someday turn into competent guitar players.

And those who don’t should look for another hobby.

I know this because once upon a time I, too, tried to master the guitar.

Yes, yes, this is true. I took lessons at the Old Town School of Folk Music. My “teachers” were local musicians looking to pick up a few bucks in between their gigs.

As such, they made no attempt to even pretend that they gave a shit what, if anything, we learned. Most could barely hide their horror at the wretched sounds produced by a room full of rookies hacking away at their guitars.

After several months, I realized I would never–ever–learn to play a bar chord.

And so I dropped guitar and took up bowling. Causing guitar teachers everywhere to burst into jubilant choruses of Oh, Happy Day!

Anyway, I’d like to report some good news.

My wife’s way better at guitar playing than I was.

And she’s drastically cut the pauses between those la/las.

Folks, I may have married the next Jimi Hendrix!

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Jim Siergey: Tick & Tock

February 17th, 2019

We have a grandfather clock. We’ve had it for a long time.

It’s a fine looking clock, of German craftsmanship and stemming from the early 1900s.  It’s a stately looking piece of functional furniture.

The story behind it is that my wife’s father, before he was her father, along with a buddy, before he was her uncle, bought the clock on Maxwell Street. The catch to the deal was that all of the clock’s insides, the weights, chains, gears, etc., were jumbled together in a bushel basket.

Bushel basket. There’s a word one doesn’t hear much anymore as well as an item one doesn’t see much any more. When I was a kid, everyone had bushel baskets. Now we have large plastic bags.

Anyway, the two mechanical masterminds put the clock together and got it working. It was then given as a gift to the woman who would eventually become my wife’s mother.

Ah, don’t you just love romantic stories?

There was one oddity about the clock. At one o’clock it would strike thirteen times.

Throughout my wife’s childhood, it would strike thirteen times and when it came into our possession in the late 1970s, it continued to toll the same when one o’clock rolled around.


Big clock…


However, one “night” at one in the morning, the clock struck beyond its standard thirteen times. It struck fourteen times, fifteen times, sixteen and, well, it just wouldn’t stop.

Feeling a bit like John Donne, I attempted to cease or at least quiet the incessant tolling.

All my attempts to quell it were unsuccessful. It was only after I removed all the weights and chains and whatnot that it went silent…and silent it remained.

For thirtysome years it silently occupied its space in the corner of the dining room; a stately sentinel, its face frozen and its pendulum still.

We recently moved to a different house in a different town in a different state. All this newness induced us to do what we had spoken of doing for decades. We called a clock repairman. His name was Bob and he made house calls.

Bob, a nimble 75 year old, arrived and meticulously took everything apart. The pendulum needed to be straightened and in the guts of the thing one could see that some of the hammers were straight (the way they should be) but the others were all grotesquely twisted, which explained its inability to chime correctly. The gearbox was also badly in need of cleaning and oiling.

It’d probably been fifty years or longer since anything like that had been done.

Bob then carefully packed up the weights, chains, pendulum and gearbox to take with him to be cleaned, oiled and regulated. He had a set up where he could test the chimes which he would do for two weeks. A thorough fellow, this Bob was.

During that interim the clock sat empty and faceless…but still stately.

A little over two weeks later Bob was back and so is the grandfather clock.

Once again it is chiming on each quarter hour and tolling, the correct number of tolls, on the hour. It feels like an old friend has walked back into our lives.

It’s about time.


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Jim Siergey: The Falcon In Mexico

February 10th, 2019

I recently watched an old movie on my new found joy, Cable TV.

It was “The Falcon in Mexico”. The Falcon was a suave English private investigator who had a series of movies made about him during the 1940s.

What really caught my attention in this particular entry was that the Mexican town the action took place in was Patzcuaro and the island of Janitzio—two places to which I have been!

Now, the action didn’t really take place there as it was a low budget B-movie but the backdrops were from Patzcuaro and Janitzio . Despite me being there fifty or sixty years after this film was shot, I recognized much of the scenery which shouldn’t be surprising as the town has been around for centuries.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, my wife and I have friends that live in San Jeronomito, a little village in Mexico. We have visited them many times. One time we were with them visiting people in another village, Zacatula. From there my wife and I planned to visit Patzcuaro and Janitzio, which we had read about with great interest.

Patzcuaro is a mountain town located in the state of Michoacán. It was founded in 1320 but in the 1500s the Spanish invaded and took over. Much of the architecture from that period still remains. Bordering this town is a large body of water, Lake Patzcuaro. Out in that lake is an island town called Janitzio. One must take a boat to reach the island which is basically a floating mountain. The only directions there are up and down.

There are many places to eat on Janitzio and many vendors selling everything one can think of. It’s kind of like Mexico’s Galena.  Atop of the island is a huge statue of Jose Maria Morelos, a great hero of Mexico’s independence, of which brave souls can enter and climb to the top of his raised fist where there is a panoramic view through the slotted windows.

Patzcuaro and Janitzio is a vacation destination for many Mexicans.

Our Mexican friends in Zacatula were concerned with us traveling alone on this 300 mile journey. We would need to take a bus to Uruapan, the next large town, where we would connect with another bus to take us up to Patzcuaro.  We finally allayed their concerns but they insisted that we take coats with us because it was cold up in the mountains.
José-María-Morelos-y-PavónMr. Morelos…

“Cold?” we sneered, “Tut Tut. We’re from Chicago. We’re not afraid of no stinking cold.”

To alleviate their protestations, we agreed to take along a sweatshirt and a windbreaker. When we finally arrived at our destination, we regretted not taking coats. It was COLD! Some people walking around town were clad in parkas, fer chrissake.

As usual, we had made no reservations and since it was a week before Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), the town was packed with visitors and vendors making preparations for the forthcoming festival.

We lugged our luggage up the alpine streets, shivering, sweating and gasping in the thin mountain air (7000 feet elevation). We lugged and trudged from one No Vacancy to another until we finally found a room at an old monastery that had been turned into a hotel.

It was a lovely place, lots of wood work, big beams, twelve foot ceilings, and windows that opened upon a small balcony that looked upon the zócalo (the main plaza). We felt like we had gone back in time.

What brought us back to the present time was discovering our room was directly above the only night club in town (which may have explained its vacancy) so pulse pounding music blared beneath us—but only until midnight.

This did not deter us from staying at the same place when we returned some years later—but we took a different room.

In the Falcon movie (remember that?)  the fishermen with their unique butterfly nets were shown and  La Danza de los Viejitos (The Dance of the Old Men) played a key role in the climax. In La Danza, children wear traditional dress and old men masks and canes. They perform their dance bent over like old men and at the end start dancing sprightly before revealing who they really are.

When my wife and I first saw this dance we heard creaking and squeaking and wondered how the dancers produced that sound effect that resembled creaky joints and bones. Then we realized that we were seated near a playground with children swinging on squeaky, creaky swings.

Boy, were our caras roja!

I could go on and on about this marvelous part of Mexico but I am nearing my word limit so I shall close by thanking the Falcon for stirring up this pleasant memory!

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Snow Job

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Jim Siergey: Snow Job

January 30th, 2019

I’ll say one thing about this town to which I have recently moved, as soon as snowflakes begin to fall snow plows are on the move.

Main streets, side streets, all around the town, plows are plowing til there’s nothing left to plow.

I am especially impressed with the care they give to the side streets. It’s a stark difference from Chicago where the side streets have to wait until after the main arteries have been salted and plowed enough times for traffic to flow safely before snow plows venture down them.

Ironically, they appear after everyone has shoveled their cars out, only to be half-buried again with the snow plows’ wintry detritus. We all know that routine.

I realize that the reason behind this big difference is that Munster, Indiana is a whole lot smaller than the City of Big Shoulders and Big Snow Mounds. Still, it’s nice.

I wondered if all small towns are treated this way but I have been told that the side streets in Lansing, which is a few blocks away and located in Illinois, are not treated with the baby bottom care that Munster’s side streets are treated.

I do have to shovel the sidewalk in front of my house, which is longer than the one in front of the house from which I moved in Chicago. Plus, I now have something I didn’t have in Chicago—a driveway.

It’s pretty goldurn big.

Just like I was the only one in this new neighborhood who used an old-fashioned manual lawn mower and an old-fashioned manual rake, I appear to be the only one using an old-fashioned manual shovel.


Maybe this is the guy who shoveled Jim’s snow…


We had a decent snowfall a while ago and I was out shoveling away. My neighbor to the west of me was out with his snow blower. He shouted at me over the racket of the machine, asking if I’d like him to work on removing snow from my driveway. Never one to veto another’s volunteering of assistance, I said, “Sure, if you want to.”

He, being about my age or maybe even a bit older, replied, “Well, I don’t really .” but he plowed ahead. After he cleared away a third or so of the drive way, I tapped him on the shoulder and hollered that he needn’t do any more than that. Heck, he didn’t want to anyway.

I did later leave a six pack of beer at this doorstep in thanks. Yuengling Lager, the pride of Pittsburgh.

During another shoveling escapade after yet another snowfall, the neighbor to the east of me was out with a snow blower that was twice the size of my other neighbor’s removal apparatus. He just continued on down my sidewalk from his and began clearing the part of my driveway that I hadn’t yet cleared.

No words were exchanged as it would have put too much strain on our voices to be heard over the din but nods and waves were exchanged.

I don’t know if this is snow blower etiquette or if it’s merely pity taken upon a pathetic old man outside in the cold wielding a prehistoric tool.

I appreciate these neighborly gestures and despite the fact that they tend to interfere with the meditative state I find myself in while shoveling, I’m not going to gripe about it..

This last snowfall, which must have been at least six inches of wet snow, was more work than the previous couple of inches of the white fluffy stuff. I trudged out yet again with my trusty shovel but I admit that I had to take three breaks before finishing.

By finishing, I mean that I shoveled enough snow off the sidewalk for someone to sidle down it sideways and enough from the driveway for a car to sneak through.

The next morning I noticed that both the sidewalk and the rest of the driveway had been snow blown away to completion.

Being a paranoid sort, I didn’t know whether to take the act as an attack upon my poor job of snow manicuring that caused someone to fix this blight upon the neighborhood or just somebody out in a snow blower meditative state of mind.

One never knows, do one?

A’course now, once I begin using one I’ll be expected to plow here, there and everywhere.

It’s snow blower etiquette, right?


Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Art Or Life



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